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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Trying to insert a video

I broke down and updated my cell phone. My Razor was about 4-1/2 years old, the battery was getting week and the girls were texting me more than calling me. Trying to return a text on the old style keypad was a pain in the fingers. (Thats my excuse and I'm sticking to it!) So I updated to a smart phone. It is the Samsung Galaxy S and I love it. The Android operating system is just too cool. I can talk to this phone and it understands me (though some might claim men aren't all that hard to understand in the first place). I tell it to search for something on Google and it finds it. We (the phone and I) are still trying to figure out how to dial somebody by name but we'll get it. One of the coolest things is that I can ask the phone for directions and it gives them to me. It doesn't heckle me and I don't have to stop, just press the microphone button, tell the phone where I want to go and it tells me how to get there. When it comes to texting its even better. It has an app called swipe that allows you to trace words on the key pad without ever lifting your finger. It is amazingly accurate and fast. But if that is still to slow I just press the microphone button and speak and it types what I say!

It also has and HD video camera built in that I had to try. Yesterday Westernaires held tryouts for white grand entry. When the white division sow comes along on Father's Day, the Grand Entry teams rides in first with the flags, US Flag, State Flag and Westernaires flags. The kids have to try out. They go into an arena and they have to demonstrate good control of their horses riding in pairs and with a flag. So here are a couple of videos of the tryout. They are really short and I am posting them more to see if I can than for anything else. One of them is rotated 90° and I can't seem to rotate it. Sorry, but know I know how I need to hold the camera to take proper video.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ebony, the Jinxed Horse

Getting Ebony home turned into a far grander adventure than I had ever planned. When last we left you, Ebony was loaded in the trailer and we were headed for home. The street that we were driving down has a few hills in it resulting in limited sight lines and it was late in the day so the sun was low on the horizon.

As I cam over a hill there was a car in front of me. My brain said something is not right with this picture but it wasn't sure what so it took my foot of the gas. The sun was shinning brightly on the back of the car and the tail lights were totally washed out. And then it rolled forward and I saw it - a left turn signal and the car was starting its turn. And I was too close.

Your mind speeds way way up in situations like this. It will take far far longer to describe what happened than the actual events.
  • The car is starting to turn left.
  • Hand jams on the horn
  • Foot goes to the break and stomps on it (Thank God for trailer breaks!)
  • Eyes scan the scene in front of me: Horses on narrow shoulder to the right - no going there, Left lane (on-coming traffic) lanes are open
  • Gently turn wheel to left and move into south-bound lanes (No sudden movements on the steering wheel)
  • Still stepping hard on the breaks with the horn blasting head for the opposite shoulder
  • Truck clears the car
  • Trailer hits the car (Actually it was the fender)
  • Plastic flies
  • Everything stops.
The good news, absolutely nobody was hurt. The lady, her son and dog in the car I hit were fine, not a scratch or a bump. Kumi and I were fine and Ebony was fine as well. I thank God for that blessing. The left front of the car from the drivers door forward was fairly torn up but drivable. The only damage to the trailer was the right fender. In the end, I got a ticket for following to closely. My first ticket in some 32 years. Sigh. The cop actually did me a favor (at least according to him) as he claimed he could have written me for any number of things. I wasn't going to argue with him but he did argue with me over one point.

He walked up to me after the accident and said, "I don't normally argue with people but I don't see how you can be traveling north with the sun in the west and claim the sun got in your eyes." I have no idea where he got that idea from. I told him that I never said the sun was in me eyes, that the sun had been shining on the other cars taillights and washed them out. He looked at the cars taillights lights and said, "Well, I suppose the sun shining in the side of the light could have reflected back into your eyes." I chose not to argue the point any further. It wouldn't have changed anything anyhow and sometimes arguing the finer points of something with a police officer ends badly. Leave well enough alone and go home.

The whole traffic thing took about an hour and poor Ebony got bored and started pawing at the floor. Kumi tried to keep her calm by giving her a few treats and once the driver information and reports were done we headed for home.

When we pulled up and parked Kira was home and she was not expecting to see her horse in the trailer but there she was. Boy was Kira excited! She went and pulled Ebony out of the trailer (Ebony came out very calmly) and lead her towards the back yard. I needed to change out halters so we stopped at the gate and I stepped up next to Ebony. Ebony promptly stepped on my foot. Did I mention Ebony had shoes on? I have had Beamer step on my foot once or twice and than hurts. Those steel shoes hurt worse. It took a few seconds before I could convince Ebony that moving her foot was in her best interest. I limped through the gate and we introduced Ebony to Beamer and Mariah.

The first introduction went much better than expected. Kumi and Kira were watching the horses to make sure they didn't start any major fights. I told them to go get three flakes of hay and spread them around the pasture while I set up some panels in front of one of the stalls. Our plan was to but Ebony into that pen while the horses got used to each other. I finished setting up the panels and looked at the horses. They were each munching quietly at a flake of hay. Hmm.

As the fates would have it, Carly called at about that time to see how things were going. Since my toes were hurting and I was still ticked about the accident, I told her that Ebony was jinxed and that we wern't keeping her. Man did I catch Carly off-guard with that one! When I told her what happened she laughed a little. I then told her about the horses all eating quietly together and asked her if she thought we should put Ebony in a pen. She recommended watching them a bit to see how they reacted. The long and short of it, Ebony never spent any time in the pen. The horses figured out their pecking order very quickly and I only ever saw a couple of kicks. Ebony had one bad bite the drew blood and then she had a few hair-bites. That is what I call it when one horse bites another and only hair is pulled out. It was kind of interesting. The hair-bites on Ebony's flank reveal white skin while the hair-bite on her shoulder reveals black skin. She IS a paint. Pretty cool.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ebony Comes Home

As you may have noticed from the title, we went from having two horses in the backyard to having three. It took one week. Actually, it took less than a week. You might recall that the conversation that started us thinking about another horse or two occurred on February 13. Ebony came home on February 19th. Scary how fast things can move sometimes.

After we decided (rather abruptly) that we were in the market for a third horse we talked to Carly. She and her brother each had a horse for sale. Mojito is a paint and he was the first horse we were considering. We had watched Carly’s brother training the horse several times while were there for lessons and we were impressed. So we went and rode the horse and it just wasn’t right. Tira-Toes just did not click with the horse. You could see in her eyes that she was a little frustrated since the horse did not respond well to her. I rode the horse and it turns out he is still learning to neck rein and hasn’t worked out all the cues yet. He tends to turn his head to far to one side or the other. He would be a great horse for a more experienced rider who is comfortable with training a horse, but not such a good horse for a novice rider.

The horse that Carly had for sale is a 13 year old registered paint though it does not have the typical paint markings. Ebony is nearly jet black but has brown highlights all through her coat. A very pretty little horse. Tira-Toes had a much better connection to this mare. Ebony responded much better to Tira-Toes’s cues and you could see the joy in Tira-Toes’s eyes as she rode the horse around the arena. Carly and I talked a bit and we both felt the Ebony was a much better horse for Tira-Toes. Ebony has been trained with flags (VERY important for a Westernaires horse) has done a fair amount of trail riding and has been known to go through a drive through or two to get some refreshments. She neck reins well and still moves off of leg cues. She is forgiving so when Tira-Toes stands up in the saddle while trotting, Ebony holds her pace. We are doing a little work to get Ebony to improve her stops as she tends to take a few more steps than she should. Just the kind of horse I was looking for a novice rider.

Next step, vet check. It’s not that I don’t trust Carly, it’s just that Carly is not a vet. It is never bad idea to have a vet check over the horse you are thinking of buying. A friend from Westernaires was looking at a horse they found on Craig’s List and they liked what they saw. They did a vet check and the horse did not pass. It had a lot of issues and they would not have been able to ride it. A couple of days later the add on Craig’s List had changed to discourage potential buyers from doing a vet check. Anyway, we went off to the vet and Ebony did really well right up until we started to lunge her. She was limping a bit on her left front. Carly (who came to the vet check with us) and I just looked at each other. I had ridden Ebony in a lesson once and Carly had ridden her quite a bit over the last year and she had never shown any sign of lameness. But the vet gave her a lameness score of 1. The vet also said that it looked like the front shoes were not on properly, that the shoes were causing Ebony’s feet to twist ever so slightly to the outside. The vet, as part of her fee, told us to bring the horse back in two weeks and she would recheck Ebony for lameness again. That sounded fair to me and, frankly, I wasn’t too worried about it because I trust Carly and I was familiar with the horse. Carly and I decided that I should take the horse home and have my farrier come take off the shoes and re-trim her feet. So we load her into the trailer and set off for home. The voyage home deserves a post of its own.

In the mean time, Tira-Toes has a few words to say about her horse. Without further ado, I give you Tira-Toes.

Hi, it’s Tira Toes again and I have just got my own horse. Her name is Ebony and she is jet black all over except for a white star on her forehead and two white socks on her back legs. She is thirteen and we bought her from our trainer, Carly. She is very sweet. In her first few days she did not bite or kick the other two horses until she became fed up with Beamer bullying her around and kicked him. She rides easy and has a smooth lope and a trot better then Beamers. By better I mean it doesn’t feel like you’re sitting through an earthquake. I have decided to join Westernaires with my friend Tessa Toes in August. I think my dad was about to shoot me when I looked at him and said I want her. A new horse means new tack, a new trailer, and all that commotion of two daughters at Westernaires at different times. But I wrapped him around my little finger and I got my horse. My goal for Westernaires is to be the most obnoxious Tenderfoot there. I have neon rainbow colored reigns, a purple saddle blanket, a multi colored saddle pad, a lime green breast collar, and a purple helmet. I love my horse.

What I love about Carly is the way she helps you learn. She builds you up step by step until you reach your goal. Carly is a fun and nice teacher. She has worked with many different horses and students and she knows the perfect way to help you learn. My goal when I first went to Carly was to be able to ride Mariah. She started me on a easy going horse like Beamer then she put me on a more, shall we say, exciting horse and I barley felt the difference.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Beamer Decides He Dosn't Like the Trailer

I should have figured things were going to good to last. The horses were getting into and out of the trailer with no problems, we were having fun at Westernaires and enjoying watching the horses in the back yard.

Then one day, for no apparent or particular reason we can find, Beamer decided he didn't like riding in the trailer. Specifically, he did not like making left hand turns. One day on the way to Westernaires we were making a left hand turn and we felt all kinds of stomping in the trailer. It stopped as soon as we were going straight again but the next left hand turn we made was also accompanied by a lot of stomping. We didn't think to much about it and continued on our way.

When we got to Westernaires we opened the door and were greeted with a bloody trailer. During all that stomping Beamer had managed to break a few of the boards on the side of the trailer and proceeded to knock a chunk off of his coronet band on his left rear hoof. Swell. We cleaned it up a bit and but some tripple antibiotic ointment on it and Kimi rode the rail that day (she sat on the side and watched the other girls ride.) We took Beamer home and called the vet for advise. They came out pretty quick and I got a rather interesting lesson in coronet band injuries. Turns out, antibiotic ointment will cause the coronet band to produce skin cells. The doc had us use straight iodine on the injury and the irritation the iodine causes to the area causes the coronet band to produce hoof wall. Pretty cool. He was not lame at all so we gave him about a week of stall rest and sure enough, at the end of the week the coronet band was healed over. We were VERY lucky with this injury as he didn't damage the coronet band itself, he only scraped the skin cover the band off. He healed fine.

But he was still dancing in the trailer and we didn't want another injury. Naturally, the solution was shipping boots. We got shipping boots and the first time we put them on him we laughed ourselves silly watching Beamer high step and shake his legs in an effort to get the shipping boots off. We bought some cheap shipping boots but they did protect his legs. For a short while. Until he pretty well shredded them up in the trailer.

About this time there was a parade we had to go to. I was out of town so one of the other dads pick up Kumi and Beamer and headed off to the parade. I don't remember exactly why Beamer was not wearing his shipping boots but I do remember that he scraped the coronet band on his right front hoof. Well, at least we knew what to do this time and we still had the iodine from the first time. Again, we were lucky and there was no damage to the coronet tissue itself.

We had to do something else so we bought a better pair of shipping boots. These did protect his legs but he still danced around in the trailer a lot. We figured it was only a matter of time until he hurt something else so off to Craig's List to do a little trailer shopping. We found a nice two horse slant load bumper pull by Trails West Trailers. The price wasn't to bad so we went ahead and bought it. It has a much larger tack room which is really nice for organizing and we have even used it as a changing room.

The horses had no trouble loading and unloading with the new trailer. But Beamer kept dancing. So we kept Beamer in shipping boots. He hates those things to this day. We weren't sure what to do to get him to calm down in the trailer. And then, one day, he quit. He just quit. We don't need to put shipping boots on him now because he stands quietly in the trailer for the whole ride. We may never know what set him off and I hope he doesn't start again. But just in case, the shipping boots are in the trailer tack room, waiting patiently for the day when Beamer decides the trailer is going to eat him.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Meet My Trainer

After walking Mariah home from our old barn I realized I had a horse that would not get the trailer. More specifically, the horse would not get in the trailer for me. I knew she would get in a trailer because her previous owner used to trailer her all over. Mariah knew what a trailer was and how to load but she refused to do it for me. I tried a couple of things that had worked with Beamer but to no avail. I could not get her close to the trailer and I had no idea how to proceed. I needed help. I needed a trainer.

You might recall that I had worked with two trainers in the past. The first trainer was just not a good fit. She had my daughter in tears and she could not communicate what she was trying to do. The second trainer was better at telling us what we needed to do but she already had a rather significant client base so that made it really tough to get time with her. The Parelli trainer that had helped us get Beamer into the trailer had moved away so she was not available at all. Time to start looking.

Where does one look for a trainer? The best way, at least in my mind, is to talk to people who have worked with trainers and have similar riding interests to your own. So naturally I asked around at Westernaires. I told people I was looking for a trainer to help me with some trailering issues and it turned out that one of the girls on my daughter’s team had worked with a trainer regarding some trailering issues and they were very pleased with the results. They had her phone number so I wrote it down and called the trainer later that night.

I would like to introduce my trainer: Carly Davis of Balance in Training. This is Carly:

Okay, she is a bit older than this today. This is Carly when she was 8 with her third (Third!) horse Scout. (Just for reference, I am 48 years old and on my first horse) This picture is Carly at the beginning of a career that I don’t think she had realized she had chosen at this point. I think good trainers start at a young age. To be sure, they don’t know what they are going to be when they grow up but they love horses. They are willing to climb onto the back of any horse somebody will let them ride. In fact, they may go looking for horses to ride. That willingness usually means they end up riding a lot of different horses which teaches them about all kinds of different horses. Stubborn horses, skittish horses, well mannered horses, ill-tempered horses, horses that don’t want to go, horses that don’t want to stop, horses that like to buck and most any other horse you can think of. Each different horse she rode taught her a little bit more about cueing horses, keeping her seat and disciplining a horse. She has ridden many different horses since this picture was taken. She went through Westernaires (she even won a horse from Westernaires!) and she rides at some of the local feed lots (I am guessing for fun as much as anything else).

At some point she knew she wanted a career that had something to do with horses and she discovered that she had the knack to be a trainer. She had enough experience with horses to know how to handle them and, more importantly in my mind, she has the patience to teach both a horse and a rider the lessons they need to learn. So she embarked on a quest to become a trainer. She went to college and earned her degree Bachelor’s in Agricultural Business and Equine Science. After earning her degree she started working on honing her training knowledge by attending seminars put on by various trainers to learn some more techniques for dealing with horses and to gain a bit of insight about how to teach people as well. Every now and then I can’t do a lesson with her because she is off to another hoses clinic so she can keep knowledge up to date. This is Carly today:

She is shown here with two of her former students. The paint is Diesel and the red dun is Mojave. These two have since “graduated” and gone on to live with new families.

My first meeting with Carly was at our place. I have always wondered what she was thinking after our first lesson together. At the time I called her I was somewhat enamored with Parelli training methods. We had had some success with Parelli methods with Beamer so naturally I figured it was the best and only way to train horses. And Parelli is supposed to be fast. If you watch enough of the Parelli videos on line, one starts to think that in five or ten minutes you will have a horse that loads in the trailer by merely pointing the horse at the trailer and telling it to get in. So that is what I was expecting I guess.

I introduce Mariah to Carly and I get a lesson in what horse training is and what it is not. Carly walked Mariah around to the back of the trailer and Mariah would not go near the trailer. Carly worked to get that horse to take a step into that trailer for over an hour. And here is why I always wondered what Carly was thinking at the end of that lesson: at the end of the lesson the horse was covered in sweat and had not put one foot into the trailer. Now, for a trainer hired to get a horse into a trailer, ending a lesson without managing to get a foot in the trailer would seem to be cause for concern. Will her new client (me) think that she is a bad trainer because she failed to get the horse in the trailer? Will she lose me as a client just because she didn’t work the miracle I had expected? During the lesson, Carly had explained very carefully what she was doing and why. She had me try it a couple of times and corrected how I held the lead line and the handy stick. When Mariah tried to push through me she explained that I need to stop her and make her back up. I learned a lot in that first lesson about applying and releasing pressure when training a horse. I was not disappointed about the horse not getting in the trailer. I had read a Clinton Anderson book and learned that it usually takes more than one lesson to teach a horse something so I was not overly concerned.

The next day I went out and took what Carly had shown me and I got one foot in the trailer. Cool. I actually applied something I learned and the horse responded! Carly came again and worked with the mare another day and got two feet in the trailer and gave me a couple of more tips. Over the next week or so and another visit from Carly, I worked with Mariah and eventually got all four feet in the trailer and standing calmly! Today, I throw the lead rope over her back and point at the trailer and she steps right in. The biggest thing Carly taught me was that the horse was not afraid of the trailer, the horse just didn’t trust me! Carly helped me establish the level of trust needed to get the horse in the trailer. All told, it took about two weeks. As Clinton Anderson said in his book, “If you take the time it takes, it takes less time.” We took the time required and today I have a horse that has no problem trailering. In fact, I can throw the lead rope over her back, point at the trailer and tell her to get in and she does. The horse had learned to trust me. This new level of trust would also start to pay of in the months that have followed.

Well, I was impressed. Carly had taught me something about what horses respond to. How pressure and release of that pressure teaches the horse what you want it to learn. She taught me that you cannot let a horse get away with anything because once they learn they can make you move your feet, you’re in trouble. You have got to have and hold that lead horse position in your herd of two (or more). I asked Carly if she gave riding lessons and she said yes. That was roughly about March of 2010 and she is still my trainer to this day. The horse that threw me the first time I got on now stands quietly while I get on. The horse that used to run all over the pasture is learning to collect and control her gait.

The relationship we have with our trainers is an interesting one. We tend to look at trainers as our friends and we forget that they are professionals. They make their living by working with people and their horses. We need to remember to treat them with the same level of respect that we treat other professionals we deal with. If you schedule a lesson, keep it. When those times happen, as they always do, and life throws you a curve, call your trainer as soon as you can to let them know you can’t make it. There have been times when I have had to cancel a lesson so I have called Carly and asked her if she could work with one of my daughters instead. She has always been willing to do so and she would probably be willing to do it even if I didn’t call her ahead. But if she knows she is going to be working with my daughter instead of me ahead of time she can better prepare a lesson for her. We need to pay attention to our lesson times. Trainers usually work by the hour and it’s not really fair of us to cut into our trainer’s earnings and another client’s time. Okay, enough time on the soap box.

On a side note, that trailering lesson was one I was able to share with some friends at Westernaires. They had a new horse that was taking them about 45 minutes or more to trailer. They were a bit frustrated to say the least. I showed them the cues Carly showed me one day while at Westernaires. They looked a bit skeptical but later that day when they were wanted to get home but the horse did not want to get into the trailer, they tried it. They were able to get their horse in the trailer in about 10 minutes. They were ecstatic! They got home at a reasonable time for the first time in a couple of months. They practiced with the technique a bit and guess what, now they just point him at the trailer and he gets right in. No, I am not saying I am a trainer by any stretch of anybodies imagination. I am saying that when we understand what the trainer is teaching we can sometimes help a fellow horse person out.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A New Tractor

The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. How true. Project House has a large number of outside projects to accompany the inside projects. This is actually good since it means I have fair weather projects and foul weather projects.

Outside projects usually mean dirt needs to be moved. A lot of dirt. And in the case of Project House, a whole bunch of rocks. The whole front and back yards are covered with rocks. The front yard is graded such that water from rain and snow flows towards the house. Not long after we put carpet in the basement a large rainstorm blew through. The water flowed right up to the house, filled up a window well, poured in around the window, down the wall and soaked the brand new carpet. Since it was outside ground water it was not covered by insurance. We called Serve Pro and they came out and vacuumed up the water, lifted the carpet and set a fan to blow air under the carpet to dry things out. Interesting fact, Serve Pro does not set their own rates, the insurance companies (the same ones that will not cover flooding for outside water coming into your house) dictates the rates Serve Pro can charge. Everything cleaned up very nicely and its like it never happened. But it did drive home the point that we needed to do something about the grading in the front yard. This picture gives you some idea of what we have.

Its all covered with rocks and there is black poly under the rocks so the water has no place to go but towards the house. We called a couple of landscape companies and learned that the cost of moving dirt was high. Very high. We have a hill that needs to be regraded, the whole front yard needs to be scraped so that we can put in a garden, there is a failed retaining wall to be rebuilt, I had a horse drinker and some electric and gas lines that needed to be buried. I am too damn cheap to pay others for things like that. I came up with a different solution - get my own tractor.

Now, I would like to say that the tractor was purely a purchase to help us save on our landscaping coasts. Truth be told, I had driven my brother-in-law's tractor and I wanted one. Bad. So after looking around a bit I settled on the Kubota BX25. It came with a front end loader, a removable back hoe (how cool is that! Useful too.) and I added a box blade for grading projects. Here is my tractor.

Here is the tractor "at work".

I have since used the tractor to bury the water line to the horse drinker, and electric line to the barn, scraped all of the rocks out of the back yard, turn the manure pile and shovel snow. As it turns out, a compact tractor is very handy machine t have around even if you only have an acre!
Now, I would like to be able to blame the purchase of this tractor on my promise to help my daughter own a horse but lets face it. This is Dad's toy. It has a 23 horsepower, 3-cylinder diesel engine (real tractors have diesel engines). It moves heavy loads, it digs holes, it fills those holes back in. It moves snow and I even used it move a 500lb table saw from the garage to the shop. And the daughters enjoy taking it out for a spin as well. Yep. If you have horses in the back yard, get a tractor! You will not regret it!